East Coast of Australia: North Queensland

We flew into Cairns with very little idea how we would be spending our next month in Australia. Travelling is so awesome but very rarely have I found any time to do actual ‘planning’ let alone update my blog, which is crazy when I should have all the time in the world! The night before our flight we made the decision to stay in Port Douglas and use it as a base to explore North Queensland. We reserved a car through RedSpot rentals and booked some accommodation through Air BnB. Our week was sorted… kind of! Here’s what we got up to:

Palm Cove, Four Mile Beach & Port Douglas 

We arrived into Cairns airport early morning, ahead of schedule, but luckily we were able to collect the car at 6am so we were on the road much earlier than initially anticipated. The roads were empty as we made our way to our first stop, Palm Cove. This quiet beach spot is a great place to chill and where we discovered the most delicious cafe for breakfast; The Pantry @ The Cove. We ordered our favourite: poached eggs with avocado.

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Breakfast at The Pantry @ The Cove

This was our ‘go to’ breakfast back at home. We would usually have this at least three mornings a week, and surprisingly didn’t ever get bored of it! 🙂 During the four months we travelled in Asia our breakfasts were a bit random and usually involved rice or noodles. I was over the moon when this plate of food was put in front of me.

We got back in the car and followed the road north, passing lots of beautiful beaches on the way. There are so many places to pull over for perfect picture opportunities. We found a hidden spot and had such a great view of the Four Mile beach.

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Viewpoint, overlooking Four Mile beach

Such a stunning beach which was completely empty!

We reached Port Douglas by lunchtime but we couldn’t check into our Air BnB until 3pm so decided to have lunch at a Brazillian restaurant and explore the town. Port Douglas is a fairly quiet town with an absolutely stunning marina and some very nice boats!

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Port Douglas marina

The marina has a few restaurants and there are dive centres to enquire about diving or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. The main street in Port Douglas has some lovely shops, more eateries and a really good tourist information centre! Everybody we spoke to that day was so friendly and chatty, we felt really welcomed.

A short drive from the town is Flagstaff Hill viewpoint which gives another great view over Four Mile beach

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The view from Flagstaff Hill

The Air BnB we were staying in was located 10minutes drive from the town centre. I wish we had taken a photo of the house, it was stunning. A huge pole house, built on stilts within the rainforest. It was so peaceful and like no where I had stayed before. Surrounded by towering trees it was so well hidden, you would never know it was there.

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge is south of the Daintree National park. It is an indigenous eco-tourist development allowing access to the beautiful rainforest. A regular shuttle bus leaves from the main tourist centre for the Mossman Gorge trails, or you can do what we did and walk the 2km. It will take you past an aboriginal community, which you’re not allowed to go into but you can see it from the side of the road.

We walked the 5km rainforest circular track, meandering through the rainforest. The trees were amazing, especially the fig trees with the thousands of stranglers growing from them, and longest roots I’ve ever seen! We kept our eyes peeled for Cassowaries as they are common in North Queensland but unfortunately we had no luck.

The gorge is also a great place to go for a swim, but it wasn’t particularly warm the day we visited and we weren’t feeling overly brave so gave it a miss, but I can imagine on a really hot day it would be amazing! 

Cape Tribulation: Mount Sorrow

There is nothing quite like waking up to a HUGE huntsman on the wall next to your head to get you up in the morning! We needed to be up early doors and this was a pretty good wake up call.

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Huntsman spider

Luckily huntsman’s aren’t poisonous, they just look blimin’ scary! This one was the size of my hand! Apparently many people are happy to live with them because they eat other bugs, such as mosquitos, so I guess they are fairly useful to have around… we decided to get rid of this one. It took half an hour (including time to take pics!). After many shrieks and squeals from Sam *joke*… Mr Huntsman eventually ran into a bag which we were able to empty outside. Phew!

We were finally on the road at 7.30am, on our way to Cape Tribulation to hike Mount Sorrow. The route to Cape Tribulation takes you over the Daintree River, where some crocs like to hang out. We were told crossing the Daintree River via the car ferry is an experience not to be missed. Personally I didn’t think it was anything to write home about, but it is the only way to access the national park. I guess if we had spotted a croc then maybe it would have been much more fun than it was. A quick 10min trip across the river and we were on the other side, ready to start our hike!

It’s advised to start the walk no later than 10am as most of the walk is covered by the tall tree canopies and there is a limited amount of daylight. The rainforest was incredible, with some amazing trees and wildlife. Within half an hour we saw a wallaby which bounced through the rainforest out of sight and we passed some very large lizards on our way to the summit. We didn’t pick the best day to hike. We encountered a few torrential downpours but luckily we were sheltered under the canopies. There were some areas which weren’t sheltered and the ground became quite slippy when wet, especially the parts which involved log scrambling. There were sections where some climbing was required, adding an additional element to the hike!

We made it to the top and were welcomed to thick cloud blocking the view. The viewing platform is disappointingly small and 10 of us were crammed together. Whilst we waited in anticipation for the clouds to part I realised the leeches slowly making their way up my walking boots. Only one managed to make it’s way through my sock onto my leg. He was a bugger to remove but I managed to prise him away, revealing a small patch of blood!

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Mount Sorrow summit in Cape Tribulation

After half an hour the clouds started to part. On a clear day it’s possible to see out to the Great Barrier Reef, which we just about managed to get a glimpse of!

We made our way back to ground level and walked around to the beaches, hoping to see a croc but had no luck! If we had more time I would have liked to go on the crocodile tour. By the time we left Cape Tribulation it was fairly late and during the wet season the evenings get darker a lot earlier. It’s definitely on my list of things to do for next time.

Atherton Tablelands: Mareeba, Yungaburra, Lake Eacham, Malanda

Our Air BnB hosts gave us the idea for this roadtrip otherwise I doubt we would have visited as many places as we did.

Our first stop was Mareeba Wetlands, via Mount Molley. Mount Molley is a very small town, with a few shops and a couple of restaurants. We decided not to stop here and carried onto the nature reserve but there are a couple of cafes to grab a coffee from. As we entered Mareeba Wetlands we drove so  s l o w l y down a long dirt track before arriving at the entrance.

During the drive we passed lots of wallabies and spotted an egret amongst the tall reeds. There were some large emus wondering around too. We had already seen so much wildlife in such a short space of time, we were in awe!

The wetlands was awesome and I would 100% recommend going. It’s such a peaceful place and the view is outstanding.

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The view from the veranda

Not being able to say no to tea and cake, we sat on the veranda overlooking a large lake watching the birds gliding gracefully around. There is a telescope to do some birdwatching and it was possible to see lots of birds within the trees, surrounding the water.

The population of the Gouldian Finch is rapidly declining in Queensland and the Northern Territories so Mareeba Wetlands Reserve have created a breeding programme in order to boost the population of these beautiful birds. They have the most incredible coloured feathers.

As we were leaving the wetlands I noticed a frog hiding in the door frame, having a nap. Such a bright green, this tree frog is definitely the prettiest frog I have ever seen!

The next stop on our roadtrip was Atherton, a large town where we stopped for a quick break and to pick up some lunch before we jumped back in the car and headed for our next point of interest, Yungaburra.

Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine within Yungaburra, are crater lakes formed by volcanic explosions. Lake Eacham (my favourite) is a clear, blue lake surrounded by rainforests. It’s possible to swim and canoe in the lake even with the freshwater crocodile that lives there!

There are also lots of little saw-shell turtles, known as bottom breathers (because they have the ability to breathe from their bottom!!). It’s possible to see them swimming in the shallow waters near the side of the lake!

There are ‘rainforest giants’ are over 45m tall and the largest of Australia’s 39 conifer species.

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Bull kauris, known as rainforest giants

Malanda was the next port of call where there was a waterfall not far from the road. If we had had more time we would have liked to continue down to Mila Mila and follow the waterfall circuit, but we wanted to get back to Yungaburra before dusk for the platypus viewing.

On our way back to Yungaburra we stopped off at the Curtain Fig Tree. The tree is over 500 years old and is a good representation of what Australia would have looked like hundreds of years ago.

We reached Yungaburra just before dusk which is around the time when the platypus’ come out. There is a platypus viewing platform just off the Gillies highway. The best viewing times are morning and dusk, but as it got darker it became more difficult to see. We heard a large splash, Sam swears he saw a platypus but I’m not so sure…

The Great Barrier Reef

We couldn’t come all the way to Australia and not dive the Great Barrier Reef, especially as we both love diving. We decided to take our PADI advanced in Indonesia, exactly 1 month before arriving in Australia so we felt fully prepped! There are a few dive companies to choose from around Port Douglas, we decided to go with Poseidon.

The day was really fun and the reefs really are stunning. We took a GoPro with us but now looking back wish we had bought a red filter beforehand as the photos really do not do the reef justice.

I’ll write up a post for my day diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Stay tuned to see what we got up to during our second week in Australia! More posts to follow!

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